I recently wrote about a critical, yet often overlooked, step in improving products: developing a true understanding of stakeholders. This week, I want to delve into a case study to demonstrate why this phase of development is so essential.
Let’s say I am working with a hypothetical national non-profit with declining revenues of 5% per year. All the while, their operational costs are increasing, and they only have one major fundraiser each year, which is selling cookies. Participants in the program make most of the sales.
In order to understand the motivations, needs, and capabilities of my stakeholders, I start by creating personas to achieve a high-level understanding of who my users are. While I could perform a deeper analysis, initially a lightweight, versatile understanding is suitable. Below I have defined three primary personas and assessed their profiles and goals.
There could be more personas, but to start with, I want to focus on these three characters. I give them fictitious names and identities at this stage to ensure that they are personable and relatable as my team considers them throughout the development process. Through this exercise, I can begin to grasp their identities, motivations, and needs.
As I dive deeper into the project, I find that there is a persona that I want to understand a bit more — Chase, who loves and wants to buy cookies. This is where an empathy map can help. By charting Chase’s needs, actions, pains, and gains, as well as what he hears, thinks, feels, sees, does, and says, I can better understand his experience.
In this example, you can see how we are really trying to appreciate the user’s sensory perceptions, pains they may have, or things that they would view as a gain. Through this exercise, we can even identify and consider other thoughts that may motivate Chase’s behavior.
While such a comprehensive and empathetic persona is useful, there are times when understanding the complete journey of a customer can be even more helpful. A journey map goes beyond the persona, and even the product, by understanding the customer’s entire experience. So, we create a scenario to understand everything from the user’s first interaction with the product to any pains that might arise during use.
As you can see from this journey map, we see that there are parts of the customer’s experience that are challenging. Some of those challenges, such as living far away from a chapter, begin even before the customer interacts with the sales process. Analyzing the user’s journey like this can show us gaps in our product experience, where hand-offs may be weak or lacking, and other areas for improvement.
For example, based on this journey map, we know we should consider more widely dispersed sales locations and options for accepting non-cash forms of payment. We also know that we should track flavor sales to improve the availability of popular flavors.
A poor user experience is likely to keep any product from being successful. After all, what is a product with no users? Ultimately, taking time to create personas, empathy maps, and journey maps can help us build better products that are more likely to succeed.